One of the earliest recommendations that I got from a therapist to help me deal with anxiety and depression flaring up was the use of the senses to ground you into the present, taking you out of the past where depression drags you and out of the future where anxiety pulls you.
Shutting your eyes and really listening to the sounds around you, all of the little noises that we blur into the background and don’t really hear, for instance, is a great place to start. Did you know that if you sit at the Collins St-Spring St tram stop and close your eyes (yes, you look like a dork!), or at least stare at the ground and open your ears in listening concentration, the flag stays along Collins St moving in the wind tinkle against the flag poles like little bells? I tried this strategy one day waiting for the tram after my meditation class and it was a revelation. I’ve been to that tram stop many times and never heard bells; they sound so pretty! And while you’re focusing on that, it’s hard to hear the thoughts in your head. Which is the point of the exercise. Of course you can turn up your headphones or stereo and try to blast the thoughts away, something like a pressure washer. It works. Pick a song with great lyrics, or a great beat, sing along loudly or bop along. It’s a great distraction. But as soon as you stop the thoughts are right back where you left them. Something about grounding yourself by listening is different, more of a therapy where it quietens the thoughts right back down to where you can hardly hear them. Standing in a forest and listening to all the little movements and creaks and birds and insects. Sitting by the ocean and listen to the crash and wash of the waves on the sand; those types of things. But you can do it anywhere. Try it at home.
Then there’s grounding using your sense of touch. Our meditation teacher gave us each a small stone when we finished our 8 week class. Mine has smooth sides and creases on other sides and lumps at each end so you can go where your mood takes you. Sometimes you’re in a problem-solving mood and try to iron out the creases with your thumb. Sometimes you need the soothing relief of rubbing the smooth sides. The corners and lumps pull focus from your mind. It’s actually been an invaluable gift for me and I’m very grateful. Figure out what you like: running the crease of your finger along a plastic ruler, rubbing my nose on something, massaging your own foot! Weird! But whatever works. I also have a smooth glass paperweight with a bubbled back that stays cool unlike the stone which warms up so it gives me options for my mood. Different methods for different days.
So that’s hearing and touch. I haven’t found sight to be that helpful, although having said that sitting and staring at the ocean is the closest I’ve come to getting absorbed in the present enough to forget my mind. We went today and man its beautiful! Maybe staring at my roses comes second, I just love them so much and looking at them, dead heading them and cutting them for the house is a precious hobby. Otherwise I find eyes are pretty fickle and dart around a bit much to be useful in this regard, but turns out there are a couple of good ideas after all. Maybe I should try looking at our local lake and other people’s gardens more often.
Then there’s taste. Examples I was given are savouring a creamy hot chocolate, or piece of smooth chocolate, letting it slowly dissolve in your mouth or slowly swilling the liquid around your mouth while you notice the finer points of the flavour that you usually don’t take the time to observe. Most of it is about slowing down and paying attention to life instead of missing it while obsessing about the past or fretting about what’s coming in the future. I haven’t used taste very much, I have enough trouble with eating too much and being overweight, however on the flipside eating more slowly should help with that and maybe you’ll eat less. It’s another strategy in any case.
We’ve talked about listening, touching, seeing, tasting so let’s talk about taking time to smell the roses, which is literally what this is all about. Maybe wearing a particular perfume that calms you, relaxes you, reminds you to slow down. Maybe sitting in a park and smelling the pine trees, or the cut grass. Maybe its getting a coffee and just breathing it in, or enjoying the smell of your favourite lunch. Whatever helps you take time out of your mind.
Grounding via the senses is a method used to help people break out of panic attacks, to help them relax when depression and anxiety are overcoming them, to maintain that relaxation, and just to feel good. It’s important and worth knowing about
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Touch is the sense I’m enjoying today. I bought this amazing blanket!! So amazing. I bought it on Facebook Marketplace, an awesome second hand market section of Facebook where anyone can buy and sell super easily. It’s way better than Ebay, and you can make the setting for items being sold within 5km of your house which I love because it saves me falling in love with something only to find its located in Point Cook! Which is far from my house by the way. Instead I’m happily buying my way through the eastern suburbs of Melbourne!
And now I have a mermaid blanket!!! Yep, a tubular blanket that you put your legs into which has a mermaid tail!! I’m so excited! I could just giggle out loud! And while it looked good online, it feels even better. It’s a lovely soft handmade blanket and I feel really lucky to have it. Someone somewhere made this specially and now its mine, and I’m wearing it every time it gets the slightest bit cold! Plus hubby says I can now swim to the kitchen and back! So that’s cool, lol. Point is, it looks awesome so that pleases my eyes and makes me smile. That’s two wins right there. AND it feels so soft to rub in my fingers and hands, and on my legs and feet. It’s the perfect happy day blankie!!